Review of 'Dinner by Heston Blumenthal'

Yes, I am a Heston Blumenthal fan not (only) because he is an experimental chef but primarily because he understands flavour and delivers it in spades. Over the years I have managed to visit a few of his restaurants (Perfectionist's Café at Heathrow and his pub “Hind's Head” in Bray just down from his iconic “Fat Duck” restaurant) and never been disappointed. This was another one of those visits on the occasion of our anniversary dinner.

Entrance

Located on the first floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge (up the grand entrance staircase, take the doorway on the left towards the back of the hotel, it is on your left). We were slightly early so were asked to sit in the “Mandarin Bar” located right outside the main entrance of the restaurant.

Mandarin Bar

No sooner had we received our drinks we were told our table was ready (sadly, the excellent nibbles of huge plump olives and a tasty assortment of nuts were unable to accompany us, but our drinks did…). The restaurant interior modernist chic - High ceilings, large windows looking across the south road into Hyde Park, no art on the walls but decorative light fixtures - Along with views into a large glassed area, almost half the size of the restaurant itself, where our food would be assembled. Being one of the first diners of the (Friday) evening we were seated directly against the glass of the kitchen so were able to observe the chefs throughout the evening.

Kitchen

We soon caught on that the theme of this restaurant is to take classic British dinner elements and put a “Heston-style” edge to them with exceptional presentation and flavour. The three sections of the menu: “Starter”, “Main” and “Dessert” contained only a few options which each had the year in which the dish originated (all 19th century or earlier). Yes, the menu is trademark simplicity itself though this simplicity belies the fact that each dish is, of course, amazing to look at and eat.

Our helpful waiter patiently explained the menu options (being very clear to us that we could ask anything we wished) and cleared up a few questions including offering a few suggestions. Disappearing with our order a short time later some delicious sourdough bread arrived with a fantastically crunchy, fresh crust and deliciously malty interior (along with a decadent cool, clean butter) that we quickly devoured so quickly in fact an amused server asked whether we wanted to have any more (we declined, wanting to fill on the main meal rather than bread…).

Bread

I started with the “Plum Meat Fruit (c. 1500)” (“spiced red wine, chicken liver parfait & grilled bread”; £23.50) as this is simply one of Heston's most iconic dishes and it is easy to see why: It looks like a real plum when it arrives but diving through the red wine gel surrounding it reveals the most tender and delicious chicken liver paté I have ever eaten in my life - Clean of flavour, no hint of any bitterness and almost sweet, a flavour reinforced by the wine flavoured gel.

Plum Meat Fruit

My companion started with the “Salamagundy (c. 1720)” (“chicken oysters, salsify, marrowbone, horseradish cream & pickled walnuts”; £25) which she absolutely enthused over particularly the delicious horseradish cream sauce. The chicken oysters were cooked to perfection - Deep fried with a light batter.

Salamagundy

On the recommendation of the waiter I had the “Iberico Pork Chop (c. 1820)” (“spelt, lardo, turnip, apple & Robert sauce”; £48) which was a much bigger portion that I expected but absolutely delicious. The unusual sauce and accompaniments were, if anything, even meatier than the pork itself which made the whole dish one of savoury meatiness. The pork was only slightly pink and extremely moist, as it should be. The “main” section of the menu does have a strong bias towards meat dishes that includes several beef choices…

Iberico Pork Chop

On the other side of the table, my companion's “Roast Halibut & Green Sauce (c. 1440)” (“braised chicory, parsley, pepper, onion & eucalyptus”; £48) was beautifully presented and cooked. The flavours particularly with another delicious sauce, this time with the green of parsley, really pulled the whole dish together.

Roast Halibut & Green Sauce

We shared a side of Heston's wonderful “Triple cooked chips” (£7.50) again on the recommendation of the waiter. We are very grateful we took his advise as the chips were not at all greasy with a perfectly crisp exterior and luxuriously soft inside. Delicious even with just the sprinkling of sea salt they were served with.

For the desserts though I knew that the “Tipsy Cake (c. 1810)” (“spit roast pineapple”; £18.50) is another signature dish but I was concerned about the term “tipsy” cake understanding it contained brandy. Since I do not drink this was a significant concern. My companion will occasionally imbibe but does not particularly care for overly alcoholic desserts. For this, however, she was talked into ordering it by the waiter (who also explained it took some time to cook so needed to be ordered early). This was another excellent recommendation with my companion left in raptures - Served on a simple wooden board with a slice of grilled pineapple (there are a number of these on a rotisserie visible through the glass as they slowly marinade and baste themselves in their own hot juices) and a small ramikan of the cake itself which is really just a light pastry on top of a wonderful cream filling. Perhaps alcoholic but she could not detect any hint of it…what she COULD detect was that it was absolutely amazing and, for her, the star of the meal.

Tipsy Cake

For myself, I chose something less signature-y with the “Brown Bread Ice Cream (c. 1830)” (“salted butter caramel, pear & malted yeast syrup”; £17.50) which sounds a bit odd but was extraordinarily good. The ice cream was perched on top of a light biscuit which itself was on top of a very thick, but very delicious, salted butter caramel, then surrounded by small squares of pear and, I believe, malted bread. The ice cream itself was not sweet but had the flavour of malted bread throughout, almost savoury. The waiter correctly advised to eat all elements at once as this contained the salty, savoury, sweet flavours of the dish that blended so well together. By themselves these elements were OK but together they made beautiful music together.

Brown Bread Ice Cream

As it was our anniversary we were considerately presented with two lovely petite fours inscribed with “Happy 9th Anniversary” following our dessert while we were having some tea.

Petite Fours

So, it comes to the bill. The house still water delivered to our table was £4 a bottle (two of those) but my companion also had a glass of wine, I had several non-alcoholic cocktails and we followed our meal with a coffee and a tea. Including a £1 charity donation and a 12.5% service charge the bill for the two of us came to about £282 which, considering the quality and, actually, even the quantity, was not as expensive as it could have been. No, it is not a meal you have every day but for a special occasion…

Interior

Exceptional food, wonderful surroundings, great service…pricey bill. It is worth it.

Mandarin Oriental

Rating:

Review Date: 2019-12-20


Cuisine: American/British

Address: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Knightsbridge

Location: London (England) - Knightsbridge

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Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7201 3833

URL: https://www.dinnerbyheston.com/